Red State offered Senator John Cornyn, chair of the NRSC, an opportunity to explain why he decided to endorse Governor Charlie Crist in a Republican primary against Marco Rubio for the open Senate seat in Florida. The decision has met with widespread criticism in the blogosphere, including here, especially for a party that professes a desire to return to the federalist philosophy of the wisdom of decentralized government. Cornyn explains that the underlying data left the NRSC no choice:
The NRSC’s endorsement is not a reflection on Marco Rubio; it is a realistic assessment of both the 2010 Florida Senate race and the national map. With the Democrats standing on the precipice of a filibuster-proof majority, we cannot afford to lose this seat in 2010. Endorsing Charlie Crist will save the NRSC precious resources that can be used to fight in other states. It will also ensure that the strongest Republican candidate maintains control of this seat, and build our numbers with the resulting opportunity to shape policy.
While Rubio is certainly an up-and-comer in Florida, a recent Mason Dixon poll showed that he only has a 44 percent name ID among Republicans, which will ultimately force him to spend a lot more money introducing himself to Floridians. Govenor Crist, in contrast, has a 100 percent name ID among Republicans, according to the same poll. In a general election match-up with Democrat Congressman Kendrick Meek, Charlie Crist wins handily 55 percent to 24 percent.
We have a chance to field competitive candidates in Connecticut, Illinois, Nevada, California, Arkansas, and Colorado in 2010. But in order to succeed, we need candidates who fit their states. Winning back the majority requires not only that we hold the Democrats accountable, but also that we embrace the vast number of issues upon which Republicans agree. Failing to do so will hand the Democrats yet another victory in 2010, and deny the American people a check on Democrat-controlled government.
But who’s the most qualified to select the candidates who “fit their states”? Would we get a better fit for the state by having a committee inside the Beltway picking the candidates, or the people of the states themselves? It seems to me that the former would tend to produce candidates who fit the Beltway establishment, rather than the actual will of the voters in the states. Frankly, we already have enough Republicans in love with the Beltway; we don’t need another.
Last night, I co-moderated a debate for the Minnesota GOP, hosted by SD-45 Republicans, with the candidates for state party chair and deputy chair taking questions originating from Republicans across the state. (Photo below, and I’m not going to wear a tie again for a month, at least.) One point the candidates for both positions made repeatedly was that the role of the party leadership at the state level was not to pick the candidates for the districts. Their job was to support the grassroots and the local organizations in searching for the best candidates and helping to get them elected. To a person, they rejected the top-down selection process as dispiriting to the grassroots and local orgs, and also counterproductive to getting candidates who truly represent the districts.
This is a lesson that the NRSC should have learned a long time ago. If Crist has such soaring support, then he doesn’t need the NRSC to throw around its weight in the primary on his behalf. Why not let Florida decide who should represent them in the general election, and have the NRSC do its job at that point?